Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Official Panerai Luminor Marina Logo Pam48 WristwatchVintage Nivada Grenchen 'baby Panerai' Automatic Depthmaster 1000 WatchPanerai Luminor With Date 40mm Black Dial Pam 48 No Reserve!Authentic Panerai Luminor Gmt Titanium & Steel Pam00161 (pam 161) 44mmNew Panerai 372 Luminor Historic Collection 3 Days 47 Mm Pam 372 Pam372 WatchPanerai Pam 438 Tuttonero Ceramic Pam00438 Men's Automatic WatchPanerai Pam 194 Luminor Submersible 2500m 47mm Titanium Automatic WatchPanerai Luminor 1950 3 Days Gmt Automatic Pam00320 Pam 320Vintage Angelus Travel Watch Sf 240 Calibre 8 Days Subsecond 9 Panerai MovementPanerai Daylight Op 6637 Pam 251 Limited Ed. 300 Pieces Worldwide! 2-bands/crocoPanerai Luminor Marina (homage) Gorgous Watch! Panerai Luminor Marina Reference 111, Pam 111Panerai Ferarri Granturismo Fer 00018Original Panerai Deployment Buckle 22mmPanerai Pam00164 Luminor Marina Automatic 44mmPanerai Ferrari Scuderia 45 Fer00002Panerai Lot Of 2 Oem Watch StrapsPanerai Stainless Steel Bracelet 24mm For 44mm ModelsOfficine Panerai 26mm Polished Tang Buckle Genuine~new Panerai 26mm Watch Strap Waterproof Rubber Band Black W/bucklePanerai Cosc Certificate From 2001 Marina Submersible 1950 Limited Pvd No ReservPanerai Cosc Certificate From 2000 Marina Submersible 1950 Limited Pvd No ReservPanerai 44mm Leather Strap Band Light Brown 24mm , Silver BucklePanerai Blue Collectible Keychain Keyring Key FobPanerai Black Nylon Bag NewPanerai Buckle 22mm Brushed Steel Tang Buckle Perfect Mint Authentic OemHandmade Vintage Style 24mm Watch Buckle . Flottiglia Mas ,panerai Heritage .Authentic Panerai Customer Service Travel Storage Black Case/zipped BoxOfficine Panerai Assolutamente Dark Brown Watch Band - 115/75 Ba 24/22 BeigeH/q Ene Silicon Rubber Waterproof Divers Black Strap For Panerai 24mmOriginal Vintage 1963 Lathe Catalogue - Torni Panerai Di Alta PrecisioneOriginal Kodiak Leather Watch Strap For Panerai 24mm

Recent News: Panerai Watches

Source: Google News

Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy, Part 16: Panerai Luminor, November 29th

A little over a month ago, we covered the first of Panerai's two flagship series: the Radiomir. This week we come to the second of the two, a series that while a little younger in age does not lack in comparative heritage: the Panerai Luminor. Released...Read more

Green with Envy: Panerai's First Ladies Watch?
Luxury London (press release), November 27th

Panerai might just have released its first ladies watch. While the company falls short of branding it as such, the size of the Radiomir 1940 3 Days Acciaio – at 42mm, it's part of the smallest collection offered by the brand – and its lime-green strap...Read more

Officine Panerai displays unique timepieces at the Jewellery Arabia
Trade Arabia, November 24th

Officine Panerai, the high-end Italian watchmaker renowned for its unique blend of Italian design and Swiss technology, will unveil its remarkable timepieces at the Jewellery Arabia 2015, which opened in Bahrain today (November 24). The exhibition is...Read more

Panerai pays tribute to Italian roots
South China Morning Post (subscription), November 23rd

Officine Panerai has made some exciting achievements. Not only has the brand renovated and expanded its historical Florence store, its involvement in restoring the great Duomo clock in Florence is also something to be proud of. Plus the release of an ...Read more

«Le franc fort a inquiété Panerai un moment, ce n'est plus le cas»
Le Temps, November 23rd

C'est désormais un passage presque obligé pour les griffes horlogères: la publication d'un grand livre retraçant l'histoire de la marque. Panerai, dans le giron du groupe Richemont depuis 1997 mais née à Florence en 1860, a réalisé l'exercice cet automne...Read more

En 2016, Panerai se met au vert
Le Point, November 19th

Panerai vient d'ailleurs d'y dévoiler plusieurs modèles qui peuvent donner la tendance du véritable pilier événementiel de l'année, le SIHH (Salon international de la haute horlogerie, en janvier). Ils sont aujourd'hui revenus de Hong Kong et font leur...Read more

Radiomir 1940 Tourbillon GMT Oro Rosso – 48mm
World Tempus, November 15th

Thanks to the sponsorship of Panerai, in 2012 the Museo Galileo in Florence created a section where period exhibits and interactive multimedia devices illustrate Galileo's decisive contribution to the history of time measurement. At the same time...Read more

This founder gave up a part of his Panerai collection to finance his start-up
Economic Times, November 8th

The entrepreneur gave up part of his Panerai collection to finance his startup, Prime Art Capital. His idea, Prime Collector app, helps amateur as well as veteran collectors keep track of the inventory and offers succession and other facilities that...Read more